When you first encounter someone, what’s your normal reaction?
For me, I’ve been realizing that my reactions have often been far less than positive. With too much regularity I’ve tended to be:
- Indifferent — really not caring much about this new person who’s come across my path.
- Critical — analyzing them from a negative perspective, and usually finding fault.
I was caught by this reality when a particular story about Jesus was brought to my attention a couple months ago. It’s the story about a rich young man who comes to Jesus seeking an answer about eternal life (you can read it here). While I’d read this many times before, I’d missed one very important insight about how Jesus saw this man.
In the story we learn that this guy was very wealthy and had been living quite righteously as well. But we discover that he wasn’t willing to part with his wealth in order to follow after God. Jesus discerned this and challenged him to let go of the idol he’d made of his riches. But he doesn’t — and the story ends tragically with the man, in great disappointment, turning and walking away. He just couldn’t let go of this idol. It was more important to him than following Jesus.
But the part of the story I’d always missed was how Jesus felt about this man before he challenged him. It says:
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
What?! Jesus, you’re God. You know this guy is going to reject you. You know he’s going to put the idol of his riches in front of any relationship he’ll have with you. Why didn’t you turn and walk away from him?
Somehow, Jesus, even knowing this encounter wasn’t going to end well, loved this rich young man anyway. This newly discovered reality has really tweaked me — in a positive way.
Over the past months I’ve been asking myself a couple hard questions, especially when I’m in settings where I’m about to meet someone new:
- Will I love this person first, before they give me any “reason” to love them?
- Will I love this person even if they seem to reject me?
I don’t have a perfect record on this — but it has truly made a difference. I’ve found that when I choose to love first it influences my words, my body language, and any responses I might give. It shifts my outlook entirely.
And even if an initial encounter with someone ends less than positively, hopefully it won’t be because I was an idiot. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll still know that I respect them, I care about them, and that my love for them as a person is genuine.
I’m writing this as a challenge and reminder to myself: I can choose to love at first sight.